Wrecks clog I-80
Wyoming Department of Transportation crews remove the charred remains of a semi truck and its cargo after the truck crashed about 28 miles west of Cheyenne on Sunday. Jerret Raffety/staff
Two semitrailer accidents close the interstate west of Cheyenne on Sunday; 1 crash traps a N.Y. couple for hours
By Becky Orr
CHEYENNE -- A fiery crash Sunday on Interstate 80 west of Cheyenne triggered a second accident nearby and closed the highway for hours.
Steven W. Anderson of Red Wing, Minn., suffered "very minor injuries" in the first crash, according to Sgt. Stephen Townsend of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
Four people were hurt in the second crash. Emergency crews took all of them to Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.
One of those injured -- Mykhaylo Yukhnyuk -- remained at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center on Sunday night in good condition, according to a nursing supervisor.
The other three were released.
The second crash trapped Mykhaylo and Vita Yukhnyuk of Rochester, N.Y., in the wreckage of their semitrailer combination for three hours before they were extricated.
The first crash occurred at 11:14 a.m. Sunday at the I-80 and Remount Interchange, about 28 miles from Cheyenne.
Steven W. Anderson was westbound in a semitrailer combination when he lost control.
He drove in the median at the interchange and through the bridge guardrail onto eastbound I-80.
Part of the rig rolled on its side onto the bridge deck of eastbound I-80. The trailer portion hung over the bridge.
Fire engulfed the rig and its 14,000-pound cargo of plastic rolls.
Anderson remained at the scene hours after the crash. He would not give his name to a reporter and said he couldn't talk because the crash is under investigation.
But he did say he wasn't hurt, except for a scratch on his arm where his watch had been. He said that he was trying to keep from hitting other cars.
Trooper M.K. Simmons said drivers headed east at the time of the first crash told him they saw a big cloud of smoke or dust.
"They saw the truck come over the bridge," he said. The tractor part slid on the bridge, supported by guardrails. The trailer part followed behind, hanging off the bridge. Part of it landed on the road below, along with rolls of plastic.
Simmons stopped traffic until area fire crews got the blaze under control. He didn't want motorists to drive in the black smoke because he didn't know if it was toxic.
A charred debris field remained on the highway in the hours after the first crash. The blaze blackened and bent steel guardrails.
A mass of twisted black metal near scorched fence posts along I-80 and the road below was all that was left of the rig.
Wyoming Department of Transportation crews came to the scene to check the condition of the highway.
The fire got so hot it burned away an overlay that protects the bridge deck, said Tim McGary, a WYDOT district engineer.
McGary said the rig broke in two with the back half on the road below.
The subsequent crash involved three semitrailer combinations.
It happened on westbound I-80, a mile or so from the first crash site.
A semitrailer ran into the rear of another as traffic slowed due to fire and smoke from the first crash. The collision pushed them into the rear of a third semitrailer.
Roman Kudakienicz, 55, of Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, drove the first unit in the crash. He wasn't hurt. His van trailer was loaded with plastic.
Boris T. Ofilov, 58, of Chicago drove the middle unit. He hauled United States mail. Emergency crews took Ofilov and a passenger, Nikolay Slavtchev, also of Chicago, to the medical center for treatment. They were released.
Mykhaylo Yukhnyuk, 47, drove the rear unit, which hauled large rolls of paper. Life Flight helicopter took him to CRMC.
Vita Yukhnyuk was in the unit's sleeper when the crash occurred.
The investigation continues in both crashes. Traffic charges are pending for Mykhaylo Yukhnyuk, according to Townsend.
Long lines of semitrailers and cars were backed up along westbound I-80.
By 5:49 p.m. Sunday, authorities had reopened I-80 in both directions between Laramie and Cheyenne. The interstate closed around 11:15 a.m. Sunday.